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Kimberly Coles

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Associate Professor, English
Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Program and Center for Jewish Studies

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Research Expertise

Literature and Science
Medieval and Renaissance
Women's Literature and Feminist Theory

Curriculum Vitae

Kim Coles has written articles on the topics of women’s writing, gender, and religious ideology. Her book, Religion, Reform, and Women’s Writing in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2008; pbk 2010) examines the influence of women writers on religious identity and its cultural expression in the sixteenth century. Her current book project, “Bad Humour: Race and Religious Essentialism in Early Modern England,” is under contract at the University of Pennsylvania Press. The book uncovers how belief itself — the excess, defect, or lack of religion — was largely apprehended and understood in terms of temperament in the early modern period. The medical theory of this period gave the prevailing sense that body and soul were in sympathy. The project explores what this implies for religious and racial identity. Her work has been supported by the John W. Kluge Center in the Library of Congress, the Warburg Institute, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Awards & Grants

Folger Shakespeare Library Fellowship

The Folger Institute will offer research fellowships, in the amount of $3,500, to support four continuous weeks of research and writing away from the Folger.

English

Lead: Kimberly Coles
Dates:
In their applications, scholars should make a strong case for their proposed topic’s importance, its relevance to a field of study broadly supported by the Folger Library’s collections and programs, and the originality and sophistication of its approach.

Publications

Bad Humour: Race and Religious Essentialism in Early Modern England

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, Forthcoming

English

Lead: Kimberly Coles
Dates:

Bad Humour: Race and Religious Essentialism in Early Modern England specifically appraises how early modern science, or natural philosophy, is applied to the racialization of people who are expelled from the faith as religious outsiders. English colonial activities were largely directed against other Christians. But the violence of the colonial project could not be effected against members of the same faith. These members—Irish Catholics, Spanish Catholics, converted Africans and Amerindians—had to be forcibly evicted. Of course, this is problematic as the doctrine of Christianity, in particular Pauline Christianity, insisted that all who were baptized in the spirit were incorporated in the faith. Early modern medical theory bound together psyche and soma in mutual influence. By the end of the sixteenth century, there is a general acceptance that the soul’s condition, as a consequence of religious belief or its absence, could be manifest in the humoral composition of the physical body. This book charts the process whereby religious error, first resident in the body, becomes marked on the skin.

The Cultural History of Race in the Renaissance and Early Modern Age (1350-1550)

London: Bloomsbury Publishing, Forthcoming October 2021

English

Lead: Kimberly Coles
Dates:

Ed. Kimberly Anne Coles and Dorothy Kim

“BlacKKKShakespearean: A Call to Action for Medieval and Early Modern Studies"

With immense pain, scholars of medieval and early modern literature, history, and culture have had to acknowledge that our fields of study are not politically neutral.

English

Lead: Kimberly Coles
Dates:

The colonial project is stitched in and through the language and literatures of the pre- and early modern periods; the politics and economics that ultimately produced settler colonialism, chattel slavery, the forced migration of peoples, and the development of the British empire animate these early English texts.

Read "BlacKKKShakespearean: A Call to Action for Medieval and Early Modern Studies"

Routledge Companion to Women, Sex, and Gender in the Early British Colonial World

All of the essays in this volume capture the body in a particular attitude: in distress, vulnerability, pain, pleasure, labor, health, reproduction, or preparation for death.

English

Lead: Kimberly Coles
Dates:

Over the past three decades women’s and gender studies have evolved into disciplines that have energized”and transformed”the study of the early modern period. But the study of women and gender is not the same. As a discipline, feminism begins with the assumption that the sexed body changes the interaction of the subject in political space, regardless of other considerations of subject position. How these other social categories inflect the position of woman as a social actor and political subject does in many ways define the discipline of feminist inquiry, but the sex of the body, irrespective of gender identification, has always informed feminist analysis, which concerns primarily the political uses to which the body is put: in its labor; its social position; its religious identity; its cultural participation. Gender studies, by contrast, typically elides biological sex, inquiring into how gender identity and identification crucially alter social and political engagement, and how gender is imbricated in the social, political and even epistemological arrangements and assumptions of culture. Now, however, we occupy a historical moment when this disciplinary divide has begun to collapse: when the sex of the body can be altered to adhere to the gender identity of the subject, when calls have been made to appropriate the long-eschewed science of biology for feminist analysis, our thinking about the sexed subject in political space must inevitably change. Our political moment alters our scholarly and theoretical practice. This volume presents a comprehensive examination of the scholarship on women and gender in Anglophone literature during the early modern period. It examines women’s lives, their practical and cultural work, the ideologies of gender that underwrite cultural production, and the divide between ideology and lived experience.

“Gender in the 1590 Faerie Queene,” Edmund Spenser in Context

Edmund Spenser's poetry remains an indispensable touchstone of English literary history. Yet for modern readers his deliberate use of archaic language and his allegorical mode of writing can become barriers to understanding his poetry.

English

Lead: Kimberly Coles
Dates:
This volume of thirty-seven essays, written by distinguished scholars, offers a rich introduction to the literary, political and religious contexts that shaped Spenser's poetry, including the environment in which he lived, the genres he drew upon, and the influences that helped to fashion his art. The collection reveals the multiple personae that Spenser constructs within his work: to read Spenser is to read a rich archive of literary forms, and this volume provides the contexts in which to do so. A reading list at the end of the volume will prove invaluable to further study.

“The Matter of Belief in John Donne’s Holy Sonnets,”

Though historians of religion have demonstrated that the theological commitments of early modern English people were labile and complex, there was nonetheless a prevailing sense in the period that belief posited bodily consequences.

English

Lead: Kimberly Coles
Dates:
This article considers this bodily presence in John Donne’s poetry by exploring the humoral construction of religious identity in his Holy Sonnets. Donne’s conversion provided him with an unusual perspective: not many people were positioned to hold as nuanced a view of religious ideology. It is surprising, then, that when Donne considers his conversion — which he does in little and large in the Holy Sonnets — he casts it in somatic terms. Donne’s humoral constitution of faith in the Holy Sonnets anatomizes the vexed transactions of body and soul particular to late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century thought. He depicts his body in the same terms that he uses to represent his religious temperament — as changeable and lacking integrity.

The Cultural Politics of Blood, 1500-1900

The essays collected here consider how conceptions of blood permeate discourses of human difference from 1500 to 1900 in England and continental Spain and in the Anglo- and Ibero-Americas.

Center for Literary and Comparative Studies | English

Lead: Ralph Robert Bauer, Kimberly Coles, Zita Nunes, Carla Peterson
Dates:

The essays collected here consider how conceptions of blood permeate discourses of human difference from 1500 to 1900 in England and continental Spain and in the Anglo- and Ibero-Americas. The authors explore how ideas about blood in science and literature have supported, at various points in history, fantasies of human embodiment and difference that serve to naturalize social hierarchies already in place. Situating the complex relationship between modern and pre-modern conceptions of race at the junction of early modern medicine, heredity, religion, and nation, The Cultural Politics of Blood challenges established accounts of the genealogy of modern racism.

Religion, Reform, and Women's Writing in Early Modern England

Long considered marginal in early modern culture, women writers were actually central to the development of a Protestant literary tradition in England.

English

Lead: Kimberly Coles
Dates:

Long considered marginal in early modern culture, women writers were actually central to the development of a Protestant literary tradition in England. Focusing primarily upon Katherine Parr, Anne Askew, Mary Sidney Herbert, and Anne Vaughan Lok, Coles argues that the writings of these women were among the most popular and influential works of sixteenth century England. This book is full of new material and fresh analysis for scholars of early modern literature, culture and religious history.